The winners of the Global Land Rover 4x4 In School Technology Challenge were announced earlier this month – Australia's Wombat Warriors.
For the uninitiated, this global technology competition is one of the world’s best reminders that the future of tech is in some very capable hands. Land Rover is Virgin Galactic’s exclusive automotive partner and together the two companies work to encourage young people to aspire to a future in STEM – the 4×4 Land Rover Challenge is one of their exciting collaborations.
The ambition of the project is to raise awareness, interest and enthusiasm in engineering through the practical application of design & technology, mathematics and science. The project emulates a work situation where specialists come together to resolve a complex problem, share intellectual and practical resources and present a final, working solution.
Earlier this year the English final saw students build a four-wheel drive vehicle capable of towing a scale replica of Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo around a model of the company’s future New Mexico home - Spaceport America.
The competitors in this year’s English leg of the challenge recreated a key moment in space flight history when unveiling their engineering works of art, with each of the team’s four-wheel drive vehicles towing a scale replica of SpaceShipTwo – in much the same a beautiful Range Rover towed the new SpaceShipTwo at its official roll-out, back at Mojave Air and Space Port back in February.
Whitney Hopple, Virgin Galactic mechanical engineer from Long Beach, was present at the UK final, thrilling all in attendance as she shared stories with the teams, learnt about their projects, listened to judging sessions and maneuvered the Virgin Galactic vehicle around the Spaceport model.
Whitney is a strong believer that challenges like the Land Rover 4x4 are key to developing the next generation of space travellers: “When talking about what I do, I often get responses like, “Oh, you’re a rocket scientist! That must be hard!” However, I think giving young students an opportunity to participate in programs like the Jaguar Land Rover 4X4 competition not only makes them more comfortable with engineering problems and processes, but it gets them excited about problem solving. They’re less intimidated by something that seems challenging, like building rockets, and are instead enthusiastic and passionate about working on projects that can change the world. I believe these students will soon find that the problems they’re solving now are just like the ones I work on at Virgin Galactic.”
The students are so incredibly smart! I was blown away by their technical expertise and enthusiasm for their projects
A main objective of the challenge is that it enables real life engineers (STEM Ambassadors) to act as role models – sharing their engineering knowledge, expertise, enthusiasm and commitment with young people. This was indeed what Whitney achieved on the day, but she’s since made it clear that the kids weren’t the only one learning news things: “The students are so incredibly smart! I was blown away by their technical expertise and enthusiasm for their projects. So many of them are programming circuit boards, using laser cutters, and laying up carbon fiber parts at an early age. Their passion and creativity is what really inspires me to keep challenging myself to find new and innovative engineering solutions.”
Both companies are delighted to be on this space journey together, a sentiment highlighted recently by Stephen Attenborough, Virgin Galactic Commercial Manager, at the SpaceShipTwo launch: ‘”It is hard to think of two brands, both with a great British heritage, that are more synonymous with exploration and adventure. The engineering excellence of Land Rover’s vehicles, which have been the stuff of legend for more than 65 years, are attributes which also lie at the heart of Virgin Galactic.”
Virgin Unite, along with these two incredible partner companies, would like to congratulate the global winners of the Land Rover challenge – The Wombat Warriors – as well as all of the teams who participated in the challenge.